NLP for Project Managers

  • by
Peter Parkes
Peter speaking at the APM Rethinking Leadership conference

This is a guest post by Peter Parkes, author of NLP for Project Managers.

I recently found myself walking away from a project and used an NLP technique to help identify the root cause of my decision.

At the same time I identified some lessons for leadership styles for project management.

History of NLP

A lot of NLP originated out of the language patterns observed in therapy, and one of the contributors was Fritz Perls, the originator of Gestalt therapy.

Although we can organize events along a time-line, we also tend to group events according to association, where the association is sometimes lost from the conscious mind.

Often we are not reacting to the most recent event, but the history of events, or cumulative learning. Have you ever found yourself over-reacting to a situation and wondered why?

While the emotion is still fresh, it can be used as an open doorway to identify the initiating event. The Time-line technique, accredited to Tad James, enabled me to study the initiating event in this situation without emotion.

Without going into the touchy feely aspects of emotional response, I draw out some lessons in leadership styles and behaviors below which I found to be at root cause.

The project

As a background to the project, it was an assignment on performance management through behavioral change.

A group of very capable consultants was brought together with extensive experience of change management, behavioral change, performance management, facilitation, and blended learning.

The client was intelligent, very clear in their desired outcome, had beautiful behaviors and was a dream to work with. As the contract was bid and awarded as a fixed price, the lead consultant assumed a role as project manager.

Leadership styles

General management theory says that leadership styles can be considered in six types:

  1. Directive
  2. Pacesetting
  3. Affiliative
  4. Participative
  5. Coaching
  6. Visionary.

The latter four styles are described by Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence and Primal Leadership, as ‘resonant’, in that they build energy and capability in the team.

The Directive style, which is also known as ‘authoritative’ or ‘command’, is appropriate for chaotic or turn-around situations. It is, however, described as one of the two discordant styles. Over time it reduces energy and capability in the group.

Why do you think that would happen?

The project team I left was indeed discordant rather than resonant, and the products of the team were not greater than the sum of the parts.

What style do you think would have been the most appropriate for this assignment given the resources at hand?

Considering Followership

NLP for project managers front cover
Peter’s book

Understanding the events and the situation help you apply the right leadership style.

However, you can’t have leaders without followers. Keith Grint, in the Oxford series on Leadership, focuses on Followership, which is especially relevant in situations without formal hierarchy.

He asks the question, why would someone want to follow you?

A survey by the Chartered Management Institute reported that most managers rated themselves as having a Coaching style, whereas most employees rated their managers as being Directive. How do you think your team would describe you?

More to the point, do you know how to flex your style?

About the author
Peter Parkes, FAPM, is the author of NLP for Project Managers and Director of consultancy firm Peak Performance. He is a Master NLP Practitioner, a trained coach and mentor. He runs NLP training courses to address the shortage in competence-based training for project managers, which aim to balance the popularity of training in method and process.

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